Apps and ads

About 10 years ago when I had a gym membership, I was frustrated to see large scale ads in the change room. I was paying almost $100 a month (I know…) to use this upscale space for working out, and now I was forced to see illuminated advertising billboards? Since I was paying a premium price, shouldn’t I have been spared from the gym trying to make an extra buck?

It’s with this memory I look to the app store and acknowledge the increase number of ad-supported apps that are now available for download.

For free apps, it appears most people are willing to accept ads, such as lower thirds or sponsor pages. Some publishers, however, appear to be experimenting with advertising on slightly higher priced apps to either offset the cost of development or appease their internal sales teams. One random app I recently came across was from Real Simple magazine. Its $4.99 “No Time to Cook app was released on December 19 and looks great. However, of its 4 reviews on the iTunes app store, half complain about its use of advertising.

Commenter Jason Matte writes: “Are you kidding me? The unwritten rule in the app store is that if you pay for it, it should be ad free.”

Is that true? Is $5 considered a premium, ad-free price for an app? It costs about $25/year to subscribe to the Real Simple magazine, and that’s chock-full of advertising. So, what gives?

Some apps, rather than choosing the ad-based model, have offered a free app that sells premium content. Take, for example, Word Lens – an app that uses your phone’s camera to translate foreign languages into your mother tongue.  The free app provides a mirror image of the words, which gives users a good testing ground before purchasing language packs for $5 that translate English to Spanish.

This model seems to make sense, considering most people would pay more than $5 for a travel book with local phrases. Yet some vocal commenters angrily gave the app one star for using this model, stating the mirror image doesn’t show how the app works.

Are complaints about these business models examples of angry troll behaviour, or are users only reacting because the business model is uncontrollably changing from what they were taught was the norm?